Discussing Adaptations and Their Fidelity to the Original

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When it comes to cross-platform adaptations, I’m pretty flexible.  Sometimes I prefer complete fidelity to a source material, while there are times wherein deviations are welcome. When J.J Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise, a group of Trekkie purists were up in arms over his adaptation.  On the other hand, fans warmly received the film translations of the Harry Potter series.

 There are also adaptations that have hugely deviated from the original like Troy and World War Z. The former had mixed reviews, but it was still an enjoyable film for many who weren’t too well versed with Homer’s Iliad. While numerous critics pointed out that the latter wasn’t too faithful with the original novel, the film was still considered to be an enjoyable thriller ride.

Does fidelity with the source material really matter when it comes to adaptations? Can they still be enjoyable if they are at least faithful in essence or spirit instead of simply being literal?

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 I started thinking about this when I watched the films Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans starring Sam Worthington. I am a big Greek Mythology buff and I was able to spot all the inaccuracies the film made about Perseus’ story right away. However, I still enjoyed the film in spite of all the differences. I know that the films’ reception is equivalent to a Michael Bay action film, but it’s not terrible. It didn’t have cheap B-movie quality, so I wasn’t really complaining.

 When I first saw Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy, I probably was the noisiest person in the audience. You could hear me repeatedly say “Hey, that’s not right” or “That’s not what happened.” I was mostly miffed by how much the film made Paris so likable in addition to the casting of the Orlando Bloom. Paris was a wuss in the Illiad. I think that it’s understandable that people would expect more from this film since it had a vibe of seriousness more than the Titans series.

 Of course, I ended up talking about the film with other people. I realized that most of my friends who have never read Greek mythology enjoyed the film. So I watched it again, but this time I tried my best to just leave all the extra details behind and just remember the main idea of the story. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the film and I guess that’s why I didn’t mind the Titan films so much in the future.

 Perhaps these adaptations won’t be a problem if you simply enjoy immersing yourself in the world of the Greek Mythology regardless of how the story was told.

Would you believe that I never read a Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones novel? I bet I’m not the only one and I know that there are tons of people who didn’t even know that The Walking Dead was originally a comic book.  Anyway, I still enjoyed the adaptations of the first three even if I was never aware of the source material. I have to admit though that hardcore fans do seem to agree that these novels were translated well.

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 However, I don’t think that all adaptations need to be completely faithful… just don’t totally disgrace it. I think that’s where most film adaptations of video games are at fault. One of the biggest offenses would have to be the recent Tekken. Where do I even begin with that one? A lot of people have also been criticizing the Resident Evil films, but it’s surprisingly still making a lot of bucks for it to spawn more and more sequels. I’ll admit that I’ve seen all of the films in the franchise in the cinema. I’ve long accepted that it will never be as horrifying as the first Resident Evil games. Why do I keep watching it then? Like what I said about Greek Mythology, you’ll enjoy it as long as you want to experience more of the universe.

 I really liked what J.J Abrams did with Star Trek. I was never a fan of the franchise before he made that movie. He made those changes to accommodate newer audiences. I know it sucks for long time fans, but they’ve had plenty of Trek content way before. Isn’t it a good thing to attract newer generations to keep the popularity of the franchise alive?

 I do understand that a lot of studios simply buy the rights of a particular material just because they know a lot of hardcore fans will check it out. The movie ends up being something totally foreign to what loyal fans know. Now, there’s a difference between being a total knock off with popular name simply slapped on a product and an adaptation that simply has a different interpretations.

I know that I might be eating my words when the Mass Effect movie comes out because I’m Unreality’s biggest BioWare fan. I was quite wary with how it will turn out since everyone has his or her own version of Shepard. However, I’ll probably watch it anyway because I can’t get enough of Mass Effect. I’ll also give it the benefit of the doubt and try to free of myself of any pre-conceived notions.

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 I remember reading an interview with BioWare earlier this year. Someone from the company said that the next Mass Effect game said that it won’t feature the characters we know, but it will still feel like Mass Effect or something along those lines. For me, I think that as long as it captures the “feel” of Mass Effect… it could be a decent movie.

 Back in High School, I used to write modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Poe’s Telltale Heart, and Alighieri’s Inferno for school plays. I never made literal adaptations of the source materials. As much as possible, I tried to stay true to the spirit of the works while making the necessary changes that would accommodate a specific kind of audience.

 It’s hard to please everyone in the world. Wait, it’s impossible to make everybody happy. When it comes to adaptations, it’s a familiar sentiment. Sometimes people look for fidelity, while others just want to be entertained. It’s sad how some people bash films that are perfectly enjoyable on its own simply because of its infidelity to the source material.

Next time you watch, play, or read an adaption, try to filter out some biases that will hinder you from being entertained. You never know, you might enjoy it if you filter some feelings out.


5 Comments

  1. Nick Verboon December 30, 2013
    • E. Lee Zimmerman December 30, 2013
  2. EarthDragon2189 December 30, 2013
    • E. Lee Zimmerman December 30, 2013
  3. craneo May 20, 2015

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